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The Hirshon Polish Ruthenian Farmhouse-Style Kielbasa – Ruska Kiełbasa Wiejska
February 28, 2021
Citizens, the Potentate of Pork, the Monarch of Meats – YOUR TFD! – is pleased beyond words to share with you today’s recipe for a seminal sausage (a VERY bad pun, sorry) that is equally beloved by Poles and Americans alike! I speak of nothing less than the almighty kielbasa of legend and story that is beloved by palates across multiple continents and countries! Yes, we’ve all had the version from Hillshire Farm – and yes, I do enjoy it very much, but the truth is it is but a pale shadow of the numinous nimbus of glory found in artisanal kielbasa and today that is the very version I will share with you! Kielbasa (from Polish kiełbasa) is any type of meat sausage from Poland, and a staple of Polish cuisine. In American English the word typically refers to a coarse, U-shaped smoked sausage of any kind of meat, which closely resembles the Wiejska sausage (typically pork only) in British English. The word entered English directly from Polish kiełbasa and Czech klobása, meaning ‘sausage’. Etymological sources state that originally, the word comes from Turkic kol basa, literally “hand-pressed”, or kül basa, literally “ash-pressed” (cognate with modern Turkish dish külbastı), or possibly from the Hebrew kol basar (כל בשר), literally meaning ‘all kinds of meat’; however, other origins are also possible. The terms entered English simultaneously from different sources, which accounts for the different spellings. Usage varies between cultural groups and countries, but overall there is a distinction between American and Canadian usage. In New Jersey, Pennsylvania and most areas of Greater New York City, a plural Polish transitional form is used, kiełbasy. Canadians also use the word kubasa, an Anglicization of the Ukrainian kovbasa (ковбаса), and Albertans even abbreviate it as kubie to refer to the sausage eaten on a hot dog bun. Sausage is a staple of Polish cuisine and comes in dozens of varieties, smoked or fresh, made with pork, beef, turkey, lamb, chicken or veal with every region having its own speciality. Of these, the kiełbasa lisiecka, produced in Małopolskie, has had PGI protection since late 2010. There are official Polish government guides and classifications of sausages based on size, meat, ready-to-eat or uncooked varieties. Originally made at home in rural areas, there are a wide variety of recipes for kielbasa preparation at home and for holidays. Kielbasa is also one of the most traditional foods served at Polish weddings. Popular varieties include: kabanos, a thin, air-dried sausage flavoured with caraway seed, originally made of pork kielbasa odesskie, made with beef. kiełbasa wędzona, Polish smoked sausage, used often in soups. krakowska, a thick, straight sausage hot-smoked with pepper and garlic; its name comes from Kraków wiejska (), farmhouse sausage; it is a large U-shaped pork and veal sausage with marjoram and garlic; its name means “rural” or (an adjectival use of) “country”, or (adjectival use of) “village”. This is today’s recipe! weselna, “wedding” sausage, medium thick, u-shaped smoked sausage; often eaten during parties, but not exclusively kaszanka or kiszka is a traditional blood sausage or black pudding. myśliwska is a smoked, dried pork sausage. kiełbasa biała, a white sausage sold uncooked and often used in soups. Kielbasa krakowska, also called “Krakauer”, which originated in the city of Kraków The most popular kiełbasa is also called “Kiełbasa Polska” (“Polish Sausage”) or “Kiełbasa Starowiejska” (“Old Countryside Sausage”). This one comes closest to what is generally known in America as “kiełbasa” (a Polish sausage). Nowadays, many major meat packers across America offer a product called “kiełbasa,” usually somewhat different from the original. In Poland, kiełbasa is often served garnished with fried onions, and – in the form of cut pieces – smoked kiełbasa can be served cold, hot, boiled, baked or grilled. It can be cooked in soups such as żurek (sour rye soup), kapuśniak (cabbage soup), or grochówka (pea soup), baked or cooked with sauerkraut, or added to bean dishes, stews (notably bigos, a Polish national dish), and casseroles. Kiełbasa is also very popular served cold as cold cuts on a platter, usually for an appetizer at traditional Polish parties. It is also a common snack (zagrycha) served with beer or plain vodka. A common recipe for Polish kielbasa is “Ukraińska kiełbasa”. The recipes traditionally calls for pork, bacon, garlic, allspice, coriander and mustard seeds. It is fried in the oven with garlic to add an additional aroma and infusion. It is in fact the shared popularity of kielbasa in both Poland and Ukraine (where it is known as is called kovbasa’) that is the explanation for the word ‘Ruthenian’ in the recipe. What makes this recipe Ruthenian is the addition of very finely-minced onion (popular in Ukrainian kovbasa), which is NOT found in the standard Polish version – leave it out if you prefer the original recipe! Ruthenia is an exonym, originally used in Medieval Latin as one of several designations for East Slavic and Eastern Orthodox regions, and most commonly as a designation for the lands of Rus’ (Old East Slavic: Рѹ́сь / Rus’ and Рѹ́сьскаѧ землѧ / Rus’kaya zemlya, Ancient Greek: Ῥωσία, Latin: Rus(s)ia, Ruscia, Ruzzia). During the early modern period, the term also acquired several specific meanings. The ancient land of Rus was ruled by the Rurik dynasty. The last of the Rurikids ruled as Tsars of all Rus/Russia until the 16th century. The word Ruthenia originated as a Latin designation of the region whose people originally called themselves the Rus’. During the Middle Ages, writers in English and other Western European languages applied the term to lands inhabited by Eastern Slavs. Russia itself was called Great Ruthenia or White Ruthenia until the end of the 17th century and in fact both Poland and Ukraine were once part of Ruthenia, thus my use of the term in describing a sausage with cross-border appeal! As for kielbasa itself, as eruditely expounded on the wonderful website honest-food.net: Everyone has his or her own kielbasa recipe. Let me restate that one more time. But there are a few things that distinguish real(ish) Polska kielbasa from the overly weird variants. I owe much of this information to the Marianski brothers, whose book Home Production of Quality Meats and Sausages is indispensable for any serious home sausage maker. First, kielbasa in America is almost always smoked, unless you are in a real-deal Polish deli, in which case there are all sorts of variants on the smoked kind. Fresh, unsmoked kielbasa is usually only found in a Polish meat market. Second, it is normally pork-based, often with a little beef tossed in. (My versions often use wild boar or black bear.) For the typical American version, it always includes Cure No. 1 (sodium nitrite), which gives it the pretty pink color — any “uncured” kielbasa you see that’s pink is a lie: They are using celery juice, which has as much sodium nitrite as the powder. Garlic is the main player. Marjoram is often there, but not always. No paprika! Adding paprika to a kielbasa turns it into a Hungarian sausage, which is awesome, but not kielbasa. You get the red color from the nitrite and the slow smoke. Now as to making these delightful beauties – first off, the key thing to remember when making sausages is to keep EVERYTHING ice-cold! The meat is cubed and chilled in the freezer so that the fat will cut cleanly, the bowls and implements should be kept in your freezer, etc. Of course, like all sausages, they will only be as good as the raw materials you use – so please, try to find some heirloom pork such as Berkshire (aka Kurobota) and some organic, grass-fed beef of top-quality only – like all good kielbasa, this is a mix of both meats! In Polish ‘wiejska’ means rural, country area, away from the city limits – and that is exactly the style we are making today. To make these, you’re obviously going to need a few specialized tools and ingredients – the most important of which is a quality sausage stuffer! These aren’t as easy-to-find as I’d like, as there are a lot of poor-quality products out there! Thankfully, Amazon stocks this quality vertical model that won’t break your bank, doesn’t take up a lot of space and will get the job done with aplomb! You’ll also need top-quality casings for the sausage – most people use casings made from cellulose these days – the HORROR! I want a REAL, snappy casing on my kielbasa and once again, finding top-quality FRESH pork casing isn’t easy – this company makes the best I’ve found! Lastly, you’re going to need to smoke these bad boys – and for that, you wither need to have a commercial smokehouse that is willing to do it for you or do it yourself in your own grill or smoker. A smoker is the best choice, but you can effectively ‘cheat’ using this handy accessory in your regular grill – buy it here! For this recipe, I’m (of course) going totally authentic as the Poles would do and use cherry wood for the smoking medium – this is a great brand, but go with your favorite alternative brand as long as it’s cherry wood! A high-quality digital scale is a MUST – as you will see in the recipe, practically every ingredient is weighed to the gram. This is a good model. You will lastly require some pink curing salt, which is NOT the same thing as pink Himalayan salt – don’t confuse the two! Curing salt is what gives cured meats its pink hue – if you don’t use it, the sausages will be gray, but delicious. The curing salt also prevents the botulinus bacteria from growing in your sausages and inflicting a swift, violent and painful death upon your dinner guests – trust me, just use it. The salt is toxic if ingested in large does, so it is colored pink so you don’t accidentally confuse it with salt or sugar. Keep it away from children and pets in a tightly-closed container and follow the directions on the package for using enough – and this is a good brand. Citizens, homemade kielbasa is a true revelation and I hope it impresses you sufficiently to take your sausage-making game to the next level – it’s a fun hobby that pays off delicious dividends for many meals to come! For this Polish classic, you can use the final product in a hot dog bun, or do as the Poles do and serve it cut-up on a plate garnished with horseradish, mustard and onion marmalade – this is my favorite brand! Kielbasa is also an essential ingredient in the most famous Polish dinner dish – Bigos, or Hunters Stew! Battle on – the Generalissimo ...
The Hirshon Iranian Ribeye Kabob Torsh – کباب ترش
February 26, 2021
My unmatched Citizens! As explained in My previous post, that recipe for Azeri spiced pomegranate molasses was a foundation for today’s dish from right over the border in Iran – this for an unmatched ribeye steak kabob exploding with layers of flavor known as torsh kabob! This is a superlative recipe that serendipitously ties together two neighboring regions with the same name – Azerbaijan! Confused? I’ll repeat my explanation from the foundation recipe post here to provide context and foundational understanding of how two different regions in two different countries can BOTH be called Azerbaijan! Sadly, most Americans lack – shall we say – a detailed knowledge of world geography and as such may be unaware that the proud country of Azerbaijan borders Iran – but did you know there is actually an Azerbaijan INSIDE Iran? Well, even the near-infinite genius of TFD reached its limit on this one, because neither did I! It is this newly-discovered (at least by me) fact that enables me to legitimately link these two disparate recipes together, even though they are from two different countries! Azerbaijan is not just the country in question but ALSO an historical region in northwestern Iran that borders Iraq, Turkey, the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, Armenia, and the actual Republic of Azerbaijan. The region is still known as Azerbaijan (Persian: آذربایجان) within Iran, and I shall try to elucidate the difference between the country and the region below and the historical rationale as to why they have the same name. Iranian Azerbaijan includes three northwestern Iranian provinces: West Azerbaijan, East Azerbaijan and Ardabil. The region is mostly populated by Azerbaijanis, with minority populations of Kurds, Armenians, Tats, Talysh, Assyrians and Persians. The name Azerbaijan itself is derived from Atropates, the Persian Satrap (governor) of Medea in the Achaemenid empire, who ruled a region found in modern Iranian Azerbaijan called Atropatene. Atropates’s name is believed to be derived from Old Persian root words meaning “protected by fire”. Iranian Azerbaijan is the land originally and historically called Azerbaijan; the Azerbaijani-populated Republic of Azerbaijan actually appropriated the name of the neighboring Azerbaijani-populated region in Iran during the 20th century! Historic Azerbaijan was called Atropatene in antiquity and Aturpatakan (Adurbadagan) in the pre-Islamic Middle Ages. Some people refer to Iranian Azerbaijan as South (or Southern) Azerbaijan and the Republic of Azerbaijan as Northern Azerbaijan, although others believe that these terms are irredentist and politically-motivated. Now that we have established a credible thread of destiny between the two regions, it should not surprise you that the Iranian Azerbaijan’s cuisine is nearly identical to that of its neighbor, though with a few critical Persian influences that fuse Azeri and Iranian cuisines into a new whole that some claim is greater than its constituent parts. I will simply state that recipes from both sides of the border ignite my palate with a range of flavors that is second-to-none! Kabab torsh (Persian: کباب ترش) is a traditional kebab that are part of the culinary repertoire of both Gilan and Mazandaran provinces in Iran – both part of the Azerbaijan Iranian region. It is made with beef – usually a top cut such as sirloin or tenderloin (I make mine with ribeye because that’s how TFD rolls!), though in recent years it has also been made with chicken, as not all can afford red meat in Iran. The meat for kabob torsh is marinated in a paste made of crushed walnuts, pomegranate juice, chopped parsley, olive oil, and crushed garlic. It is then cooked on skewers over charcoal. Traditionally, it is eaten with kateh (boiled rice) and a vast variety of Gilani side dishes. Traditionally, kabob torsh uses a very specific fresh herb that grows in the Gilan and Mazandaran provinces of Iran and is known as Chochaagh. However, Chochaagh is not widely available anywhere in the rest of the world and is only available locally, as far as I can determine. I use a range of other, more easily-obtained local herbs and spices to create the proper flavor profile of the Caspian Sea-region. As noted in this lightly-edited and excerpted article from the Los Angeles Times: It’s punched-up barbecue, barbecue for the nose: smoky grilled meat swathed with heady scents of saffron, butter, onions and aromatic rice. No wonder the shah of Iran wanted his kebab. About 150 years ago, Naser od-Din Shah was yearning for the kebabs he’d grown up on in Azerbaijan, so he ordered an Azerbaijani homeboy to open a kebab stand just outside his palace in Tehran. That way he could send out for a fragrant skewer or two whenever he felt like it. (It’s good to be the shah.) As a result, kebab fever spread through Tehran, then all of Iran. Generations later, it was bound to reach Southern California because we have the largest Iranian colony in the country — nearly half the Iranians in the U.S. live here. Today there are about 60 Persian restaurants in Los Angeles and Orange counties, ranging in stature from food court stalls to splashy supper clubs. Assuming you have already made the Azeri spiced pomegranate syrup from my previous post, you are ready to make this recipe to wow your (very) fortunate dinner guests! First off, you want to use a really good-quality ribeye, preferably grass-fed and humanely-raised – an unhappy cow has substandard meat and it is unethical to support factory meat ranches with no regard for the animals they raise! TFD Nation is better than that! You’ll also need a range of fresh herbs, all easily found in your supermarket’s produce aisle. You’ll want some clarified butter for this recipe, either made yourself (it’s extremely easy!) or you can buy some pre-made from your local Indian grocer or from Amazon here. You’ll also want some (optional) dried pennyroyal, a mint-like herb used throughout the region – you can buy top-quality pennyroyal from here (note that if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, you should omit this ingredient – it’s not going to hurt you in the small amount used, but better to be safe than sorry!). Rosewater is a necessity for a good kabob torsh, but I am VERY finicky when it comes to this ingredient! I prefer to simply take the best Bulgarian rose extract (buy it here) and add it to water to make the ultimate in top-quality product! Ground dried angelica root is also a must for true Persian cooking – this is a good brand and easily found in middle eastern grocery stores as well as Amazon. This last ingredient choice for my version of kabob torsh is a bit unusual, but I think it works incredibly well in the recipe – most Iranians would use fresh lime juice to add sourness (it IS called a sour (torsh) kabab after all!) – I however prefer the less authentic but far more flavorsome addition of Georgian Tkemali sauce (from the nearby country of Georgia). It’s made from sour plums and a range of herbs and spices and is just fantastic – this is a good brand, though grossly-overpriced on Amazon (you can find it cheaper online elsewhere). It’s one of my favorite condiments and will soon be yours as well, I promise! My Citizens – this two-part kabob torsh recipe will reward you with a unique and unbelievably delicious meal, plus leftover pomegranate molasses to grace your fridge – I have every confidence you will love this recipe! Do try it with a delicious and cooling Persian ice cream for a most excellent dessert to end an epic meal suitable for the Gods themselves! Battle on – the Generalissimo...
The Hirshon Azerbaijan Pomegranate Molasses – Narşərab
February 24, 2021
My Citizens – the Count of Chaos, the Regent of Randomness, YOUR TFD! – has a new treat for TFD Nation: the first-ever two-part recipe created under the shining aegis of my imperious imprimatur! Now, for those of you who follow TFD on a regular basis – you’re in for a treat by combining this recipe for narsharab, a unique spiced pomegranate syrup recipe from Azerbaijan, with the upcoming recipe for Iranian/Azeri beef tenderloin skewers (which requires it for the proper taste profile)! However, never fear – if you’re just here for THIS recipe from a Google search, it will grace your table with aplomb and you will find its deliciously tart flavors usable in a wide range of different dishes! Sadly, most Americans lack – shall we say – a detailed knowledge of world geography and as such may be unaware that the proud country of Azerbaijan borders Iran – but did you know there is actually an Azerbaijan INSIDE Iran? Well, even the near-infinite genius of TFD reached its limit on this one, because neither did I! It is this newly-discovered (at least by me) fact that enables me to legitimately link these two disparate recipes together, even though they are from two different countries! Azerbaijan is not just the country in question but ALSO an historical region in northwestern Iran that borders Iraq, Turkey, the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, Armenia, and the actual Republic of Azerbaijan. The region is still known as Azerbaijan (Persian: آذربایجان) within Iran, and I shall try to elucidate the difference between the country and the region below and the historical rationale as to why they have the same name. Iranian Azerbaijan includes three northwestern Iranian provinces: West Azerbaijan, East Azerbaijan and Ardabil. The region is mostly populated by Azerbaijanis, with minority populations of Kurds, Armenians, Tats, Talysh, Assyrians and Persians. The name Azerbaijan itself is derived from Atropates, the Persian Satrap (governor) of Medea in the Achaemenid empire, who ruled a region found in modern Iranian Azerbaijan called Atropatene. Atropates’s name is believed to be derived from Old Persian root words meaning “protected by fire”. Iranian Azerbaijan is the land originally and historically called Azerbaijan; the Azerbaijani-populated Republic of Azerbaijan actually appropriated the name of the neighboring Azerbaijani-populated region in Iran during the 20th century! Historic Azerbaijan was called Atropatene in antiquity and Aturpatakan (Adurbadagan) in the pre-Islamic Middle Ages. Some people refer to Iranian Azerbaijan as South (or Southern) Azerbaijan and the Republic of Azerbaijan as Northern Azerbaijan, although others believe that these terms are irredentist and politically-motivated. Now that we have established a credible thread of destiny between the two regions, it should not surprise you that the Iranian Azerbaijan’s cuisine is nearly identical to that of its neighbor, though with a few critical Persian influences that fuse Azeri and Iranian cuisines into a new whole that some claim is greater than its constituent parts. I will simply state that recipes from both sides of the border ignite my palate with a range of flavors that is second-to-none! It is probably a safe assumption you are not overly familiar with Azeri culture and cuisine – prepare to be illuminated with the fire of inner vision and clarity, because TFD is on the case to drop a knowledge payload into your grey matter, forthwith! 🙂 Azeri hospitality is legendary throughout the region and I am delighted to share some background information about these warm and hospitable people! As noted on theculturetrip.com: Hospitality in the Caucasus is second to none. Hosts welcome guests into their homes and offer endless cups of Azerbaijani tea while serving jam and other condiments. The roots of the hospitality date back centuries. Former rulers were renowned for providing the very best for visiting dignitaries. Nothing sums up Azerbaijani generosity more than the ancient saying which translates to something like this: ‘Let the houses which do not welcome guests collapse’. The Azerbaijan people have always been cultured. Endless medieval poets and writers including the great Nizami Ganjavi hail from Azerbaijan. Head to Baku’s Nizami Museum and see six life-size statues of historical, literary geniuses proudly standing outside. The Russian Empire and the Soviet Union placed a lot of emphasis on high culture too. In 1918, Azerbaijan became the first Islamic country to give women the vote. In perspective, the United States granted suffrage in 1920 and the United Kingdom in 1928. Today, women hold high positions in government and while they do follow traditional gender roles they have a high level of respect. Men often hold doors open, give up their seats and insist on paying. Women dress in fashionable clothes and few wear a traditional headscarf. In local traditions, it’s more important to enjoy time with friends than to meet deadlines. If someone has a meeting at noon but finds themselves still chatting and sipping coffee, they arrive 30 minutes late. Expect long and warm greetings, good manners and endless pleasantries. When an Azeri asks how you and your family are, they often genuinely want to know. Visit someone’s home and have tea and food offered immediately. Despite the apparent public aloofness, the Azerbaijan people are polite. Historically and culturally, Azerbaijan has strong influences from Persia and Russia. Secularism means all religions from Shia Islamic to Orthodox Christianity and Judaism are welcome. Different regions boast different traditions and micro-cultures. And modern-day Azerbaijanis look towards to the West. The ancient and traditional juxtapose with the contemporary. Persian, Russian and European influences combine. Azerbaijani cuisine (Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan mətbəxi) of course refers to the cooking styles and dishes of Azerbaijanis. The cuisine developed significantly due to its diversity of plentiful agriculture, capable of producing a variety of fruits and vegetables, due to the abundant grasslands which historically allowed for a culture of pastoralism to develop, as well as to the unique geographical location of the Republic of Azerbaijan, which is situated on the crossroads of Europe and Asia with an access to the Caspian sea. Azerbaijan’s national cuisine is closer to Middle Eastern cuisine due to the taste and preparation of the dishes, as well as adding a dark spice and flavor additives. Contemporary Azerbaijan cuisine retains traditional methods of preparation of dishes while incorporating modern cooking requirements and preparations. Azerbaijani dishes have traditionally been cooked with copper utensils in copper cookware. Copper bowls and plates are still commonly used as serving dishes. Azerbaijani cuisine is full of different types of greens and vegetables such as aubergine, tomato, sweet pepper, spinach, cabbage, onion, sorrel, beet, radish, cucumber, green beans. Rice and products made from flour are widely used in national cuisine. It is famous for vegetables and greens used seasonally in the dishes. Fresh herbs, including mint, coriander, dill, basil, parsley, tarragon, leek, chive, thyme, marjoram, green onion, and watercress are very popular and often accompany main dishes. The majority of national dishes are prepared of lamb, beef and poultry meat. Dishes prepared of minced meat are more prevalent. The sea, lakes and rivers of the Republic of Azerbaijan are abundant with different fish species, particularly white sturgeon. Sturgeon fish is widely used in preparation of national dishes. The Caspian Sea is home to many edible species of fish, including the sturgeon, Caspian salmon, kutum, sardines, grey mullet, and others. Black caviar from the Caspian Sea is one of Azerbaijan’s best known delicacies well sought after in other parts of the world, including former Soviet countries. One of the most reputed dishes of Azerbaijani cuisine is plov from saffron-covered rice, served with various herbs and greens, a combination totally distinct from those found in Uzbek plovs. Azerbaijani cuisine includes more than 40 different plov recipes. Other second courses include a wide variety of kebabs and shashlik, including lamb, beef, chicken, duck and fish (baliq) kebabs. Black tea is the national beverage, and is drunk after food is eaten. It is also offered to guests as a gesture of welcome, often accompanied by fruit preserves. Sturgeon, a common fish, is normally skewered and grilled as a shashlik, being served with a tart pomegranate sauce called narsharab (the subject of today’s recipe!). Dried fruits and walnuts are used in many dishes. The traditional condiments are salt, black pepper, sumac, and especially saffron, which is grown domestically on the Absheron Peninsula. The third courses include soups, of which there are more than 30 types in Azerbaijani national cuisine. These include kufta bozbash, piti prepared of meat and dovga, ovdukh, dogramach, bolva prepared of greens and yoghurt. Some soups are served in national or interesting and unusually-shaped bowls. The location has enabled the people to develop a varied and nutritious diet, rich in produce, milk products, and meat, including beef, mutton, fish and game. Furthermore, the location, which was contended over by many historical kingdoms, khanates, and empires also meant that Azerbaijani cuisine was influenced by the culinary traditions of multiple different cultures, such as Turkic, Iranian, and Eastern European, and as a result, Azerbaijani cuisine gradually developed to make use of many different culinary techniques and ingredients. Now – as to narsharab itself! This heavy syrup is the result of boiling down 100% pomegranate juice by at least ½, sometimes up to ⅔ and then adding a range of spices to complement its deliciously tart flavor profile. The recipe to make it is quite simple, but finding the correct spices to add into it proved very difficult indeed and consumed several hours of research across many Azeri recipe sites (bless you, Google Translate!). I believe I have found (at least to my palate) a profound blend of spices that really sets off the tartness of the syrup – and they are indeed authentic to both the recipe and the region! Really, the only thing you need to worry about for the narsharab recipe is finding a quality 100% pomegranate syrup – mercifully, Amazon to the rescue with this delectable version from Turkey! Organic, culinary-grade rose petals from Bulgaria are the best in the world and are also available from Amazon, here. All the other ingredients can be found easily in your grocery store or online – be sure to try this across a range of recipes, not just the Iranian/Azeri beef skewer recipe to come! Glaze a chicken with it, use it as a dip for crudités, drizzle it over vanilla ice cream – the opportunities are both dazzling and vast, my Citizens! Tune in for the next linked recipe, coming soon and consider serving this with another delicious Azeri dish – dushbara ravioli in saffron broth! Battle on – the Generalissimo ...
The Hirshon Italian Genuine Spaghetti Carbonara
February 23, 2021
My Citizens – there has been much rancor and brouhaha across the InterWebs over the weekend regarding a true travesty of cuisine and the Italians are justifiably in an uproar! ANYONE who dares to mess with their beloved and seminal pasta recipes deserves the unhallowed fate awaiting them from millions of irate Italians giving them the fig amidst a virtual salute of profanity-laced diatribe! Not familiar with what I’m expounding on? Well – before we dive into today’s recipe, please read this and give a visceral shudder as you read how the Italians mobilized online and turned the NY Times into a quivering panna cotta of terror! Now – with that out of the way, let’s discuss the history of spaghetti carbonara – you may be surprised this is a recent dish in the culinary timeline, only going back to the early 1950’s! Carbonara is an Italian pasta dish from Rome made with egg, hard cheese, cured pork, and black pepper. The dish arrived at its modern form, with its current name, in the middle of the 20th century. The cheese is usually Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, or a combination of the two. Spaghetti is the most common pasta, but fettuccine, rigatoni, linguine, or bucatini can also be used. Normally, guanciale or pancetta are used for the meat component, but lardons of smoked bacon are a common substitute outside Italy. As with many recipes, the origins of the dish and its name are obscure; however, most sources trace its origin to the region of Lazio. The dish forms part of a family of dishes involving pasta with bacon, cheese and pepper, one of which is pasta alla gricia. Indeed, it is very similar to pasta cacio e uova, a dish dressed with melted lard and a mixture of eggs and cheese, which is documented as long ago as 1839, and, according to some researchers and older Italians, may have been the pre-Second World War name of carbonara. There are many theories for the origin of the name ‘carbonara’, which is likely more recent than the dish itself. Since the name is derived from carbonaro (the Italian word for ‘charcoal burner’), some believe the dish was first made as a hearty meal for Italian charcoal workers. In parts of the United States, this etymology gave rise to the term “coal miner’s spaghetti”. It has even been suggested that it was created as a tribute to the Carbonari (‘charcoalmen’) secret society prominent in the early, repressed stages of Italian unification in the early 19th century. It seems more likely that it is an “urban dish” from Rome, perhaps popularized by the restaurant La Carbonara in Rome. The names pasta alla carbonara and spaghetti alla carbonara are unrecorded before the Second World War; notably, it is absent from Ada Boni’s 1930 La Cucina Romana (‘Roman cuisine’). The carbonara name is first attested in 1950, when it was described in the Italian newspaper ‘La Stampa’ as a dish sought by the American officers after the Allied liberation of Rome in 1944. It was described as a “Roman dish” at a time when many Italians were eating eggs and bacon supplied by troops from the United States. In 1954, it was included in Elizabeth David’s Italian Food, an English-language cookbook published in Great Britain. Interestingly, I came across this fascinating history of the dish on toscanadivino.com: Carbonara holds the secret to its original recipe, then, but also that of its origins. “It was invented during the years of the Carboneria,” some say; “no, it was the American GIs who inspired it.” Theories about who invented carbonara, and when, abounded, but nothing appeared certain. Or so the majority of we Italians thought. Then a couple of days ago, here comes, on the 8 o’clock news, Renato Gualandi, a 96-year-old chef from Bologna who, history teaches us now, invented carbonara. I was astonished, as I had never heard of him, even though it has been – I have now learned – one of the most influential chefs and restaurant owners of post-war Italy. And yes: apparently he invented carbonara, guys. Born in 1921, Renato Gualandi started early to work as a delivery boy for one of Bologna’s best known butchers. In 1932, he was an assistant at a local deli shop, Palmirani. Aged 18, he won his first culinary price in Catania, Sicily. Towards the end of the Second World War, he cooked both in Bologna, at Baglioni’s, and Imola, at the Albergo Grand’Italia: it was in this period, Gualandi says, that he created carbonara. In 1952, he opened his own restaurant in Bologna, the legendary 3G. Gualandi’s approach to food was quite innovative for a time when culinary trends were largely dictated by the kitchens of Europe’s most famous five-star hotels. He ditched novel ingredients and complex flavors to return to the simplicity and authenticity of the dishes of his land, Emilia Romagna, and of Bologna in particular. He certainly had a lot to take inspiration from, considering the culinary patrimony of the region. In 1959, his restaurant could sit 150 and by the time it closed, 12 years later, there were 7 “sfogline” (women who rolled pasta and pasta dough by hand) working in its kitchens. Very popular was also the 3G deli, annexed to the front section of the restaurant: with its large spit always going, this was where the bolognese went to pick up Gualandi’s creations to bring home. Throughout its glorious career, Gualandi cooked for the Queen of the Netherlands, Charles de Gaulle, Enzo Ferrari, Wanda Osiris (immense Italian soubrette, singer and actress of the 1920s-1940s), Pier Paolo Pasolini, Tyrone Power. Today, at 96, Gualandi is still well and cooking: he minds his vegetable and herbs garden in the hills around Misano, in the Rimini province, and still likes to entertain and cook. It is Gualandi himself to tell how carbonara came to be. It was 1944 and Italy was still torn by the war. In those months, Gualandi had been working in Riccione, a seaside town on the Riviera Romagnola, today known for its beaches and nightlife. When Riccione was freed, the Allied decided to celebrate with a banquet: Gualandi was put in charge of it. There were quite some names attending, among them Harold Mac Millan, at the time in charge of the British forces, stanced in the Mediterranean (who was to become Prime Minister 13 years later) and UK generals Harold Alexander and Sir Oliver Leese. With such guests, and for such an occasion, Gualandi had to put together something tasty, but only with what was available in town, mostly army rations of dried foods and a little meat. Gualandi admitted he wanted to create something new, that could bring together Italian and Anglo-Saxon cuisine; with a bit of help from Slovenian culinary tradition (he said to have been inspired by a soup popular in Isdria, callled “spikrofi”), he concocted a sauce for spaghetti made of bacon, cream, processed cheese and dried egg yolk, topped with a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper. Needless to say, Gualandi’s dish was a success. Regardless of the accuracy of Gualandi’s claim, the modern version of this recipe is truly rich, divine and delicious! The pasta is cooked in moderately-salted boiling water. The guanciale is briefly fried in a pan in its own fat. A mixture of raw eggs (or yolks), grated Pecorino (or a mixture with Parmesan), and a liberal amount of ground black pepper is combined with the hot pasta either in the pasta pot or in a serving dish, but away from direct heat, to avoid curdling the egg. The fried guanciale is then added, and the mixture is tossed, creating a rich, creamy sauce with bits of meat spread throughout. Although various shapes of pasta can be used, the raw egg can only cook properly with a shape that has a sufficiently large ratio of surface area to volume, such as the long, thin types fettucine, linguine, or spaghetti. Guanciale is the most commonly used meat for the dish in Italy, but pancetta and pancetta affumicata are also used and in English-speaking countries, bacon is often used as a substitute. The usual cheese is Pecorino Romano; occasionally Parmesan. Recipes differ as to how eggs are used—some use the whole egg, some others only the yolk, and still others a mixture. Cream is NOT used in most Italian recipes and is an abomination – similarly, garlic is found in some recipes, all of them outside Italy. ESCHEW THEM!!! Outside Italy, variations on carbonara may include green peas, broccoli, broccolini, leeks, onions, other vegetables, and/or mushrooms, and may substitute a meat like ham or coppa for the fattier guanciale or pancetta. These are all proof that Satan exists and is scheming to destroy your immortal soul – again, avoid these mutagenic horrors! The so-called ‘Carbonara sauce’ often sold as a ready-to-eat convenience food in grocery stores in many countries is thickened with food starch, and has the consistency of library paste. <cue the image of TFD vomiting profusely here>. Now – for a recipe with only 5 ingredients (and trust me, this may be the lowest ingredient-count recipe on TFD!), those ingredients MUST BE THE BEST OF THIER KIND! Nothing less will do, and TFD wants only the ultimate recipes under His nom de guerre to circulate amongst you! So – let’s establish where you will be purchasing each ingredient! For the spaghetti, the best in the world is this one – the ultimate pecorino romano is here – the supreme guanciale IMHO is this one – the undisputed best butter in the world may be purchased here and lastly, this is the best black pepper on the planet! Don’t mess with my ingredient choices, as TFD has been known to hire hardened mercenaries to hunt down those who DARE mess with perfection! 😉 I have every confidence that My Italian Citizens will be well-pleased with my personal rendition of the classic carbonara recipe of Rome – I hope you will see fit to indulge in the TRUE recipe for a great pasta primi (first) course – this is too rich to serve as an entree! Try it followed by a refreshing sorbet as a palate cleanser before a main dish such as this one for a lovely Italian meal! As always, my chosen sobriquet is the window into my soul – I am a Dictator who is looking out for His beloved Citizens and I want you to enjoy not only authenticity, but the BEST! Battle on – the Generalissimo ...
The Hirshon North Carolina Slaw Dog
February 18, 2021
My glorious Citizens! My last few recipe posts have been for several delicious, yet outré dishes that are not part of the common zeitgeist – at least here in the United States. Today, I wish to celebrate the successful Mars Rover landing by NASA with a classic dish of American comfort food – the not-so-humble hot dog! Not just ANY dog, however – this one is a micro-regional treat you won’t see anywhere outside the North Carolina state line, a tube steak that is replete with savory, sweet and heat on the flavor profile. I speak of nothing less than the legendary and deservedly epic North Carolina slaw dog, dripping with sweet and cool cole slaw, hot with a unique chili spooned over the dog and under the slaw as well as tangy with mustard and diced onions! Enjoy one of these with the state’s favorite beverage – Cheerwine – and know the authentic taste of the Tarheel State! A proper North Carolina hot dog is an assemblage of all the tasty ingredients that are resplendent in the state, most of which revolve around its epic BBQ plates. Pork – of course – is king in NC and the hot dogs used in this dish of distinction are made from both pork and beef (they are also neon-red in color!). These hot dogs are the stuff of legend in the state and are sold under the Bright Leaf brand (more on them shortly). If you are lucky enough to find yourself in NC and want a hiatus from its world-class pork BBQ – slaw dogs are what you want to order! Bright Leaf hot dogs – these are the flagship meat product proffered by the Carolina Packers company and the #1 original red hot dog of NC! This is a true old fashioned beef and pork hot dog made the same way it was in 1941. As noted on their website in this excerpted article: Carolina Packing Company, as it was originally called, was founded in Smithfield, North Carolina by John A. Jones Sr., a native of Claxton, Georgia, and a group of local businessmen on December 12, 1939. Later, in 1941, the name was changed to Carolina Packers Incorporated. From the very beginning Carolina Packers Inc created a much needed livestock market for Smithfield area farmers, many of whom became charter stockholders in the new company. For the next 50 years, we processed locally-grown beef and pork into hams, bacon, country link sausage and our famous family of “Bright Leaf” hot dogs, bologna, Red Hots and smoked sausage. In 1997, we discontinued slaughtering operations to concentrate our efforts on our Bright Leaf product line. In March, 1977, Mr. Jones’ son, Buck, became president and remained so until his death in 2005. Buck’s wife, Jean continued to carry on the food service legacy founded almost seventy years ago, until her death in February of 2016. WHERE DOES THE NAME “BRIGHT LEAF” COME FROM? Often folks who are new to our products ask about the origin of our “Bright Leaf” name. The answer is rooted in our North Carolina agricultural heritage. Carolina Packers on Bright Leaf BlvdThe area’s rural economy used to be dominated by tobacco. In fact the section of US Highway 301, in Smithfield, NC, where our plant is located, has long been known as Brightleaf Boulevard, because of the number of tobacco warehouses that lined the highway through Smithfield during the 1940′s. In addition, many of our customers and suppliers grew tobacco as part of their farming operations, so we adopted this name, along with the tobacco leaf in our logo, to identify with our agricultural heritage. Now, as for Cheerwine – this is the ONLY drink that should ever be served alongside a slaw dog, at least in my not-so-humble opinion! If you’re not from the region, you won’t be familiar with it, so indulge me as I bring you up to speed on this delicious beverage of the Gods! Uniquely Southern and undeniably delicious since 1917 – as the oldest continuing soft drink run by the same family, L.D. Peeler created Cheerwine in 1917 in Salisbury, North Carolina amidst a sugar shortage. His drive to start his own soft drink led him to a salesman from St. Louis who sold him a wild cherry flavor that blended well with other flavors. With the perfect taste secured, he needed a name. With a burgundy-red color and cheery disposition, the name “Cheerwine” simply made sense. The taste sensation known as Cheerwine was born. The soft drink with a bubbly effervescence and cherry goodness became an instant hit. The origin of the North Carolina slaw dog is shrouded in mystery, but is thought to have first been popularized at Merritt’s Burger House, which has been serving slaw dogs since 1958. Now, to make this dish with My usual ruthless authenticity, you must first secure the proper Bright Leaf neon-red hot dogs, easily purchased from the supplier here. For the mustard, go old-school and use French’s yellow mustard – it is the classic condiment for the dog in question. The chili is simple but has a very specific flavor profile that if you deviate even one iota from, a native Tarheel will be brought to a foam-mouthed frenzy of righteous anger! One of the most famous hot dog chilies in North Carolina was made by the late Mabel Morgan of Wilson, NC. Mabel was the one who made the chili for her family’s hot dog stand, Bruce’s Hot Dog Stand. The recipe I am sharing came from Mabel’s daughter Millie and is her exact recipe. Use it. North Carolina slaw is also its own unique entity, although I have slightly tweaked the recipe in ways that should not offend (and in my opinion, improve it). One deviation from the standard is that instead of using white vinegar, I choose to use Eastern NC BBQ sauce, which uses both cider and white vinegar, as well as hot pepper and sugar. I find it adds a nice zip to the slaw over straight white vinegar. The slaw uses my own blend of herbs and spices and MUST INCLUDE ONLY DUKE’S BRAND MAYO. It’s the Southern standard and has more tang than classic Hellman’s or Kraft. You can easily buy it here – yes there are 4 squeeze bottles in the order, but trust me – once you try Duke’s you are going to use it on EVERYTHING. Use a good, soft potato bun for the hot dog and you are good-to-go, Citizens! For the ketchup used in the chili, please humor me and try Sir Kensington’s brand ketchup – it is the best you will ever experience, please don’t deface my recipe with Heinz or Hunt’s. Please also use this chili powder – it is from nearby Maryland and is thus local. Today, America once again demonstrated it is the O.G. of space exploration for good reason – I hope you choose to honor the success of our NASA scientists by indulging in this tasty bite of Americana post haste! Should you decide that you want to REALLY push your cooking game up to the next level, try another and MUCH harder NC specialty dish – I speak of nothing less than whole hog BBQ! Battle on – the Generalissimo...
The Hirshon Finnish Nettle Rye Bread – Nokkosleipä
February 17, 2021
My Citizens – one of the true advantages of having a digital ‘footprint’ is that it becomes easily possible to navigate one’s journey through the shifting sands of time via services like Facebook and Twitter. They can easily remind you of what happened on a particular day at any point across your life (at least from when you joined those services, anyway). Today, Facebook reminded me that it is one year to the day since I was last in one of my favorite cities in the world – Oulu, Finland! As noted in my resurfaced Facebook post (made right before COVID-19 shut my travel down): A classic Sámi breakfast here in Oulu, Finland – wherein I discovered a perfect meal! The reindeer blood sausage was a revelation – not bloody tasting or gamy in the least and the dried nettle rye bread is quite literally the best bread I’ve ever eaten in my life! After much cajoling, the staff gave me the bakery name – I SHALL NOT REST until this recipe is shared and preserved for eternity! Finnish yogurt is perhaps the best in the world with a unique texture and an unmatched flavor. The blueberries are wild and were gathered here in the local forest outside Oulu. The Alderwood-smoked cheese was a revelation, the ham (no pic) was mild and delicious. Saccharine (no longer legal in the U.S.) is my preferred diabetic sweetener, the butter here is off-the-hook and the juice was pressed this morning from berries gathered a few hours ago. Green tea for the win with a Finnish mini Cinnamon and Cardamom Roll – known locally as Korvapuusti. Truly a breakfast for the ages!!! FYI – Sámi is the name of the indigenous peoples of Lapland, which stretches across Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia – and let me tell you, that nettle rye bread I tasted was indeed one of the best breads I’ve EVER enjoyed! Today, it is my great privilege to teach you how to make this delicious and healthful recipe whose provenance goes back more than 1000 years in Finland – and yes, nettles have been used in recipes for ages (more on that later)! However, before you can fully appreciate the undimmed glory that is my recipe, you should first understand how important rye bread is to the Finnish soul! As eruditely expounded on finland.fi: Whether it’s on a table or in a proverb, rye bread has long been a cultural and nutritional cornerstone for Finns. It was also voted Finland’s national food for the centenary celebrations of the country’s independence, in 2017. Finns have long been avid consumers of rye bread. Such is their enthusiasm for this culinary staple that they even take it with them on trips abroad. In the summertime Finns head to their summer cottages on the mass in the weekends and during summer holidays. As a result, rural communities around the country often double in size during the warmer months, with this temporary migration giving a considerable boost to the local economies. There is one product in particular that these city slickers enthusiastically seek out during their temporary stays that can’t be found on store shelves elsewhere. “People are really eager to eat the local rye breads,” explains Johanna Mäkelä, professor of food culture at the University of Helsinki. “I would suspect that some of these local bakeries are surviving just by baking in the summer.” Such enthusiasm is unsurprising. First cultivated in Finland over 2,000 years ago, rye grain’s adaptability to various soil types, coupled with its ability to ripen over the short northern summer, has long seen it a staple of the local cuisine. “Finnish rye bread is a story of a poor country, as there were so few ingredients that were always available,” Mäkelä explains. “Water, leaven, salt and rye flour – that’s still the basic recipe. Sometimes you can also add yeast.” Whether it’s the round limppu (loaf) originating from the eastern parts of the country, or the west’s flat disc with a hole in the middle, known as reikäleipä, Finnish full-flavoured rye bread is noticeably lighter than varieties from Germany and the Baltic Region. It is also considerably less sweet than Swedish rye bread, and is commonly enjoyed as a sandwich, dipped in soup or simply by itself, topped with a layer of butter. Whichever way you look at it, and whatever shape it comes in, the bond that Finns share with rye bread cannot be overstated. “If people come from a different part of Finland and move to Helsinki, they often long for the kind of bread they have eaten in their childhood,” Mäkelä explains. “Also, if you ask almost any Finn going abroad to meet expats, there are two things they would take with them: rye bread and Fazer blue-label chocolate.” This coveted bread is even on sale at Helsinki Airport to meet demand. Here travellers can pick up a last-minute gift for their friends and family, or ensure they have enough in stock when spending time outside of the country. Rye bread’s ubiquity over the years has seen it become deeply engrained in Finnish culture. Aside from being referenced in the national epic Kalevala, it also features prominently in paintings and proverbs from earlier ages. Farmers once took heed that consuming rye gives one power in the wrists if hard work is required, and the grain was said to provide energising fuel for draught horses. These days, such beliefs have been replaced by scientific evidence underlining various health benefits. “Rye has a very high fibre content,” explains Kaisa Poutanen, Research Professor from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. “Even though it’s concentrated in the outer layers of the kernels, the dietary fibre is also found in the inner parts of the grain.” This abundant fibre directly aids the intestinal health of consumers. Not to be outdone, the grain also helps to protect from diabetes. “When we eat rye bread, we need less insulin to control blood glucose,” Poutanen continues. “Also, cardiovascular disease is very much connected to diabetes. So, if you protect against one, you protect against the other.” Last, but certainly not least, the satiating effect of rye bread is widely recognised as being integral for weight management. With research continuing to uncover new health benefits, and the number of varieties on offer growing steadily, it’s safe to say that store shelves around the country will be well stocked with the national bread for many years to come. “We Finns use rye bread to sustain ourselves and our bodies, but it is also part of our cultural identities,” Mäkelä observes. “We are keeping it in our hearts, but on the other hand we are also keeping it on our tables.” “It’s a living tradition.” The special leaven, sourdough, used when preparing Finnish rye bread is known as leivän juuri in Finnish, or ‘the root of the bread’. “Many households still have their own leaven, which they inherited from previous generations,” explains VTT’s Kaisa Poutanen. “Where I live in Kuopio, a lady has leaven which is over 50 years old that she got from her mother-in-law. She is still baking with it, every week.” The trick to preserving leaven is to ensure that some of the bread mix is left over when baking, which can then either be dried or frozen. Next time around all that needs doing is add a little water and the bacteria start to live again. And the cycle continues, ensuring flavoursome bread time and time again. Now – Finnish rye bread comes in two basic kinds: VERY hard (virtually 100% rye flour) or soft (a mix of wheat bread flour and rye, mostly wheat). This recipe falls squarely in the soft category, which finds favor with the toothsome (but not jaw-breaking) TFD bread ideal – the addition of fresh or dried nettle leaves gives this bread a delicious savor that you will find instantly addictive! Finnish medievalist scholar Hannele Klemettilä lists a very similar recipe to my own in her seminal book ‘The Medieval Kitchen: A Social History with Recipes‘ which is a fascinating read (buy it at the link). To make this, you’ll need two different kinds of flour – malted bread flour (this is an exceptional brand) and medium white rye flour (again, here is an exceptional product). Most critical for getting that authentic Finnish rye bread flavor is to only use a sourdough starter based on Finnish yeasts or it simply isn’t the real deal – mercifully, it can be easily obtained in the United States from here. Follow the directions on the packet to kickstart your starter before you need it for this recipe! Lastly, it is rather difficult to make nettle rye bread without nettles – if you are lucky enough to find them fresh while foraging in the Spring, by all means (CAREFULLY) gather them, wearing thick gloves. They aren’t called Stinging Nettles for nothing, after all! Once you boil them, the stingers are rendered inert and harmless – or you can just use dried nettles which is faster and perhaps even preferable for their concentrated flavor and ease-of-preparation. You can easily purchase top-quality dried nettle leaves from here. If you aren’t familiar with nettles: they have long been part of human culinary and medical history, dating back several millennia. Though often feared and hated as a bothersome weed, it seems there are few medical problems they can’t fix. Nettles can make hair glossy; ease eczema; treat arthritis, anemia, hay fever, kidney problems, scurvy, worms, and pain; be sniffed to stop a nosebleed; be used as a gargle for throat and mouth infections; reduce blood pressure; drunk as a muscle relaxant during childbirth; and even act as an antidote to venomous stings from animals. Nettles taste a bit like spinach – but have twice as much iron – and have been traditionally cooked in soup, beer, tea, pudding and other dishes. Citizens, this flavorsome recipe will make you an instant rye bread (and nettle!) convert, even if you think you never liked it before! This is a soft, tasty and evocative bread that you (or your kids) will never realize is actually supremely healthy for you – all you will know is it is delicious slathered with top-quality butter, sea salt or as a vehicle for your favorite sandwiches! If you prefer a hearty-style rye bread rampant with manly fortitude and sans nettle, there are many to choose from representing countries such as Finland (again), Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Iceland, and Russia as well as classic Jewish-style and more! Although superb with butter, Nokkosleipä is also unspeakably delicious spread with Russian rose and rum jam for a true breakfast experience of the first order! Battle on – the Generalissimo ...
The Hirshon Singaporean Yusheng Tossed Salad For Chinese New Year – 魚生
February 9, 2021
My glorious Citizens! Chinese New Year is nearly upon us, so please allow the Emperor of Empathy – YOUR TFD! – to wish you not the usual heartfelt 恭喜發財 (gung hei fat choy) or Happy New Year, but instead 身體健康 (san tai gin hong) – Good Health! Given our continued involvement in the COVID-19 pandemic, this seems a more apropos, sanguine and germane greeting for this particular Chinese New Year of the Metal Ox! Now – prepare yourselves body, mind and soul as the Sinological Scholar who ALONE REIGNS as TFD! – shall be dropping some serious knowledge on you, so buckle up! 😀 Chinese New Year (generally referred to as Lunar New Year globally) is the Chinese festival that celebrates the beginning of a new year based on the traditional Chinese Lunar calendar. China officially adopted the Gregorian calendar, used by the West, in 1912. After this, public celebrations of Chinese New Year waned or were even forbidden. In the late 20th century, however, the holiday was re-introduced to great acclaim as the ‘Spring Festival’. As noted on chinesezodiac.org: The Chinese New Year will start on February 12th, and it will last until January 31st of 2022. The Ox is the second out of the twelve zodiac signs: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. The Year of the Metal Ox comes right after the Year of the Metal Rat (2020) and before the Year of the Water Tiger (2022)! The years of the Ox in the Chinese Horoscope are: 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, and 2021. This year is going to be lucky and also perfect to focus on relationships, whether we are talking about friendships or love. In the Chinese Zodiac, the Ox is very hardworking and methodical. 2021 is going to be a year when work will get rewarded, and those zodiac signs who are lucky in terms of money this year will be the ones that will make a considerable effort. The Yin energy, specific to the Chinese zodiac sign of Ox, will be quite poignant. This is going to be a year when we will fully feel the weight of our responsibilities, a year when it is necessary to double our efforts to accomplish anything at all. The Yin energy, specific to the Chinese zodiac sign of Ox, will be quite poignant. This is going to be a year when we will fully feel the weight of our responsibilities, a year when it is necessary to double our efforts to accomplish anything at all. Since this is a Metal year, for the second successive year, the color of 2021 is going to be white. Besides white, we have the lucky colors of the Ox: yellow and green, colors that, in Feng Shui, attract prosperity and success. To increase your luck, wear metal accessories. This year, no explosive or catastrophic events will occur, so it is a favorable year for economic recovery or consolidation, a year of long-term investments (especially for creating a reserve stock for the coming unproductive years). The Metal Ox year is also great for making order in the family life. After all, if the family life is peaceful, everything gets solved! Thus, 2021 is a year when all the problems get solved with discipline. A lot of discipline! Obviously, with an extra effort from us in organizing our time. Metal is yin (cold) in character, its motion is inwards and its energy is contracting. It is associated with the autumn, the west, old age, the planet Venus, the color white, dry weather, and the White Tiger (Bai Hu) in Four Symbols. The archetypal metals are silver and gold. In Chinese Taoist thought, Metal attributes are considered to be firmness, rigidity, persistence, strength, and determination. Chinese New Year is associated with innumerable myths and customs. The festival was traditionally a time to honor deities as well as ancestors. Within China, regional customs and traditions concerning the celebration of the New Year vary widely, and the evening preceding Chinese New Year’s Day is frequently regarded as an occasion for Chinese families to gather for the annual reunion dinner. It is also traditional for every family to thoroughly clean their house, in order to sweep away any ill-fortune and to make way for incoming good luck. Another custom is the decoration of windows and doors with red paper-cuts and couplets. Popular themes among these paper-cuts and couplets include that of good fortune or happiness, wealth, and longevity. Other activities include lighting firecrackers and giving money in red paper envelopes. A reunion dinner (nián yè fàn) is traditionally held on New Year’s Eve, during which family members gather for a celebration. The venue will usually be in or near the home of the most senior member of the family. The New Year’s Eve dinner is very large and sumptuous and traditionally includes dishes of meat (namely, pork and chicken) and fish. Most reunion dinners also feature a communal hot pot as it is believed to signify the coming together of the family members for the meal. Most reunion dinners (particularly in the Southern regions) also prominently feature specialty meats (e.g. wax-cured meats like duck and Chinese sausage) and seafood (e.g. lobster and abalone) that are usually reserved for this and other special occasions during the remainder of the year. In most areas, fish (鱼; 魚; yú) is included, but not eaten completely (and the remainder is stored overnight), as the Chinese phrase “may there be surpluses every year” (年年有余; 年年有餘; niánnián yǒu yú) sounds the same as “let there be fish every year.” Eight individual dishes are served to reflect the belief of good fortune associated with the number. If in the previous year a death was experienced in the family, seven dishes are served. Other traditional foods consist of noodles, fruits, dumplings, spring rolls, and Tangyuan which are also known as sweet rice balls. Each dish served during Chinese New Year represents something special. For example, the noodles used to make longevity noodles are usually very thin, very long wheat noodles. These noodles are much longer than normal and are sometimes fried and served on a plate, or boiled and served in a bowl with its broth. Expectedly, the noodles symbolize the wish for a long life and are NEVER cut, as this implies cutting life short. The fruits that are typically enjoyed on New Year would be oranges, tangerines, and pomelos as they are round and ‘golden’ color symbolizing fullness and wealth. Their lucky sound when spoken also brings good luck and fortune. The Chinese pronunciation for orange is 橙 (chéng /chnng/), which sounds the same as the Chinese for ‘success’ (成). One of the ways to spell tangerine(桔 jú /jyoo/) contains the Chinese character for luck (吉 jí /jee/). Pomelo is believed to bring constant prosperity. Pomelo in Chinese (柚 yòu /yo/) sounds similar to ‘to have’ (有 yǒu), disregarding its tone, however it sounds exactly like ‘again’ (又 yòu). Dumplings and spring rolls symbolize wealth, whereas sweet rice balls symbolize family togetherness. Red packets for the immediate family are sometimes distributed during the reunion dinner. These packets contain money in an amount that reflects good luck and honorability. Now that you have a far firmer grasp of the symbolic foods around Chinese New Year in China – let me share today’s recipe history, which is unique to Southeast Asia! Yusheng, yee sang or yuu sahng (Chinese: 魚生; pinyin: yúshēng; Jyutping: jyu4saang1), or Prosperity Toss, also known as lo sahng (Cantonese for 撈生 or 捞生) is a Cantonese-style raw fish salad. It usually consists of strips of raw fish (salmon has become very popular), mixed with shredded vegetables and a variety of sauces and condiments, among other ingredients. Yusheng literally means “raw fish” but since “fish (魚)” is commonly conflated with its homophone “abundance (余)”, Yúshēng (魚生) is interpreted as a homophone for Yúshēng (余升) meaning an increase in abundance. Therefore, yusheng is considered a symbol of abundance, prosperity and vigor. In Cantonese it is known as “lo sheng” with “lo” 捞 also meaning “tossing up good fortune”. The tossing action is called “Lo Hei”, which means to “rise” (起 “hei”), again a reference to a thriving business and thus its popularity with businessmen during the New Year. Hence it is believed the higher you toss the ingredients in the salad, the greater your fortunes will be. While versions of it are thought to have existed in China, the contemporary version was created and popularized in the 1960s amongst the ethnic Chinese community and its consumption has been associated with Chinese New Year festivities in Maritime Southeast Asia. Today, the common form of yusheng is the qicai yusheng (七彩鱼生; “seven-coloured raw fish salad”) served in local restaurants during the Chinese New Year period. Also referred to as facai yusheng (发财鱼生; “prosperity raw fish salad”) or xinnian yusheng (新年鱼生; “Chinese New Year raw fish salad”), this present colorful take on yusheng has an uncertain origin. However, there are two competing claims to the origins of the modern take on yusheng: the first school said it was invented by a Malaysian named Loke Ching Fatt in Seremban, Malaysia in the 1940s; the second opinion says it was created in the 1960s by 4 Singaporean chefs. The Malaysian Chinese dispute the origins of this dish, so much that the dish was declared Malaysian heritage food by the Malaysian Department of National Heritage – for the purposes of this post, we are focusing on a Singaporean interpretation of the dish, thus the use of ‘Singapore’ in the post title. The Chinese China Cuisine Association mentions the tradition coming from Guangdong, China before the dishes were brought to Southeast Asia by Chinese immigration. However, the statement only mentions the tradition of having raw fish during Chinese New Year, which was served very differently from today’s Yusheng. Eating Yusheng during Chinese New Year is a cultural activity for Chinese living in Malaysia and Singapore, but not so much in other Chinese-populated regions such as Hong Kong, where the practice is almost unheard of. The dish made its Singapore debut during Lunar New Year of 1964 in Singapore’s Lai Wah Restaurant (Established in Sept. 1963). The 4 master chefs were Than Mui Kai (Tham Yu Kai, co-head chef of Lai Wah Restaurant), Lau Yoke Pui (co-head chef of Lai Wah Restaurant), Hooi Kok Wai (founder of Dragon-Phoenix Restaurant, established on 8 April 1963) and Sin Leong (founder of Sin Leong Restaurant) who, together created that as a symbol of prosperity and good health amongst the Chinese. Together, they are known as the “Four Heavenly Kings” in the Singapore restaurant scene. In the 1970s, Lai Wah Restaurant started the modern-day method of serving yusheng with a pre-mixed special sauce comprising plum sauce, rice vinegar, kumquat paste and sesame oil – instead of customers mixing inconsistently-concocted sauce. There are a number of very specific, codified rules to serving Yusheng – the most important is that it must be tossed AS HIGH AS POSSIBLE – below I list all the rituals for those interested in duplicating the full restaurant exprience at home! When putting the yusheng on the table, New Year’s greetings are offered. Some of the phrases commonly used are: 恭喜发财 / 恭喜發財 (pinyin: gong xi fa cai; Jyutping: gung1 hei2 faat3 coi4) meaning “Congratulations for your wealth” 万事如意 / 萬事如意 (pinyin: wan shi ru yi; Jyutping: maan6 si6 jyu4 ji3) meaning “May all your wishes be fulfilled” I found this exceptional guide as to how to properly serve and enjoy this dish on aspirantsg.com: Before you get started on the yusheng, you should offer sincere well-wishes such as 恭喜发财 “Gong Xi Fa Cai” meaning “Congratulations for your wealth” or 万事如意 “Wan shi ru yi” meaning “May all your wishes be fulfilled” to everyone at the table. Next, let’s embark on the 12 steps and sayings everyone at the table should say before enjoying Lo Hei (toss the good luck)!: 1. In goes the raw fish (生鱼, Sheng Yu) 年年有馀 – say “Nian Nian You Yu” symbolizing abundance ‘excess’ through the new year 2. Put in the pomelo (柚子, You Zi) 大吉大利 – say “Da Ji Da Li” which means good fortunes and luck. 3. Sprinkle pepper & cinnamon powder (胡椒粉, Hu Jiao Fen) – say 招财进宝 “Zhao Cai Jin Bao” to attract more wealth and treasures. This step is a must for business lo hei. 4. Drizzle the oil (油, You) You can either say “财原广进 “Cai Yuan Guang Jin” or 一本万利 “Yi Ben Wan Li” while circling the ingredients with the oil to increase all profits 10,000 times and encouraging money to flow in from all directions. Thrill your bosses with this step! 5. Throw in the carrots (红萝卜, Hong Luo Bo) – say 鸿运当头 “Hong Yun Dang Tou” which means good luck is right at our doorsteps. 6. Put in the shredded green radish (青萝卜, Qing Luo Bo) – say 青春常驻 “Qing Chun Chang Zhu” for eternal youth. Good to let the ladies have a go at this one. 7. Now goes the shredded white radish (白萝卜, Bai Luo Bo) – say 风生水起 “Feng Sheng Shui Qi” and 步步高升 “Bu Bu Gao Sheng” which means prosperity in business and promotion at work. This is for all the minions at work. 8. Dust finely chopped peanuts (花生粉, Hua Sheng Fen) – say 金银满屋 “Jin yin man wu” symbolises a household filled with gold and silver. As an icon of longevity, peanuts also symbolise eternal youth. 9. Sprinkle sesame seeds over quickly (芝麻, Zhi Ma) – say 生意兴隆 “Sheng Yi Xing Long” for a flourishing business. 10. Throw in Golden Crackers (薄脆饼干, Bo Cui Bing Gan) 遍地黄金 – say “Bian Di Huang Jin” for hope of riches that literally fill the whole floor with gold. (TFD Note – I also use REAL gold flakes in my version!) 11. In flows the plum sauce-based dressing (酸梅酱, Suan Mei Jiang) – say 甜甜蜜蜜 “Tian Tian Mi Mi” for sweet and loving relationships for everyone. 12. Toss The Yusheng – Shout 发啊 “Huat Ah” and toss the salad for an auspicious 7 times for great luck and wealth in the new year! My version of this classic dish is especially luxurious (of course) and includes a lucky total of 27 ingredients, of which 18 (a most auspicious number!) are in the salad itself! Mine includes magnificent symbolic ingredients such as lobster, which signifies happiness and laughter throughout the year (哈哈大笑) as well as a sauce that creates a striking balance of rich and refreshing flavors. Lastly, I choose to gild my yusheng with REAL edible gold leaf flakes for extra prosperity and good fortune, while the magnificent mountain of shredded daikon alludes to soaring achievements and success in the year ahead all complemented by vibrant vegetables and pickled ginger. Additional slices of raw sashimi-grade yellowtail fish herald wealth and abundance to come in addition to the classic salmon – I however prefer to use top-quality smoked salmon in my version instead of raw. Citizens – this is a very festive dish to herald what all of us hope will be a far better year – do your part, make this dish, feast and celebrate in the hopes that the Year of the Metal Ox is as positive as the horoscope seems to indicate! I might suggest enjoying this with a delicious dessert of Shandong-style candied apples to guarantee a sweet new year for you and yours! Remember – TOSS YUSHENG REALLY HIGH, AS HIGH AS YOU CAN before serving in front of all your guests – and remember that you can adjust the amounts of the salad suitable for your number of guests (it’s why I don’t include amounts), use different ingredients outside of the ‘official’ ones and ENJOY your Year of the Metal Ox! Battle on – the Generalissimo ...
The Hirshon Adult Intoxicating Hamantaschen – המן־טאַשן
February 4, 2021
My Citizens – as those of you who are regulars here at TFD Nation know, I have been grappling with an unprecedented episode of major clinical depression over the last two weeks. The struggle is real, but I am hopeful of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel soon (and hoping it’s daylight, NOT an incoming train!) – thankfully, an event is coming up shortly that is tailor-made for dispelling the gloom of a darkened soul. I speak of nothing less than the Jewish celebratory holiday of Purim! At Purim, Jews are – quite literally – commanded to get VERY intoxicated/drunk, to make merry and dress in costume! More on this soon – but before that, know there is a unique dessert forever enshrined as part of this holiday, and that is a fruit-filled cookie called hamantaschen (Haman’s pockets, properly pronounced hahm-un-tahsh-n). I shall share my truly original and unique recipe for them – what makes them special, you might ask? I am fortunate to live in California, where recreational marijuana is legal and as such I have created a weed-infused cookie guaranteed to get your party BAKED (and I am not talking about the oven here)! Now – before I share the history of the holiday and the cookie, PLEASE heed these warnings and disclaimers! DO NOT MAKE THIS if you live in a state or country where marijuana is illegal! DO NOT DRIVE after eating one of these – call a cab, an Uber, or have a sober friend drive you home (I recognize in COVID times, you shouldn’t be out at all – but this recipe outlives the plague!). Make sure you tell your guests there is weed in these cookies – keep them away from children, pets and anyone in recovery! It can take up to an hour to feel the effects! Now – as to Purim, a full description of the holiday, its traditions and more may be found on the Chabad.org website here, but this is a good summary: Purim (פּוּרִים “lots”, from the word פור pur, translated as ‘lot’, perhaps related to Akkadian pūru ‘stone, urn’; also called the Festival of Lots) is a Jewish holiday which commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, an Achaemenid Persian Empire official who was planning to kill all the Jews, as recounted in the Book of Esther (מגילת אסתר Megillat Ester in Hebrew; usually dated to the 5th century BC). Haman was the royal vizier to King Ahasuerus (Xerxes I or Artaxerxes I of Persia, “Khshayarsha” and “Artakhsher” in Old Persian, respectively), and he planned to kill all the Jews in the empire. His plans were foiled by Mordecai and Esther, his adopted daughter who had become Queen of Persia. The day of deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing. According to the Scroll of Esther, “they should make them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.” Purim is celebrated among Jews by: Exchanging gifts of food and drink known as mishloach manot Donating charity to the poor known as mattanot la-evyonim Eating a celebratory meal known as a se’udat Purim Public recitation (“reading of the megillah”) of the Scroll of Esther, known as kriat ha-megillah, usually in synagogue Reciting additions to the daily prayers and the grace after meals, known as Al HaNissim Other customs include wearing masks and costumes, public celebrations and parades (Adloyada), and eating hamantaschen (“Haman’s pocket”); men are encouraged to drink wine or any other alcoholic beverage. According to the Hebrew calendar, Purim is celebrated annually on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar (and it is celebrated on Adar II in Hebrew leap years which occur every two to three years), the day following the victory of the Jews over their enemies. Now – as to hamantaschen and the recipe-at-hand: A hamantash (pl. hamantashen; Yiddish: המן־טאַש homentash, pl. המן־טאַשן homentashn, ‘Haman pockets’) is an Ashkenazi Jewish triangular filled-pocket cookie, usually associated with the Jewish holiday of Purim. The name refers to Haman, the villain in the Purim story. In Hebrew, hamantashen are known as אוזני המן, oznei Haman, ‘Haman’s ears’. The shape is achieved by folding in the sides of a circular piece of dough similar to a shortbread, with a filling placed in the center. Hamantashen are made with many different fillings, which are traditionally sweet (although savory varieties have become popular as well), including mohn (poppy seed, the oldest and most traditional variety), lekvar (prune jam), nut, date, apricot, raspberry, raisins, apple, vanilla pastry cream with chocolate chips, cherry, fig, chocolate, dulce de leche, halva, caramel, or cheese. Their formation varies from hard similar to a shortbread to soft doughy casings – TFD GREATLY prefers the soft version. In Yiddish, the word hamantasch is singular, while hamantaschen is the plural form. However, hamantaschen is the more common word form among English speakers, even when referring to a single pastry (for example, “I ate a poppy seed hamantaschen”). The name hamantash is commonly viewed as a reference to Haman, the villain of Purim, as described in the Book of Esther. The pastries are supposed to symbolize the defeated enemy of the Jewish people. The word tash means “pouch” or “pocket” in Yiddish, and thus may refer to Haman’s pockets, symbolizing the money that Haman offered to Ahasuerus in exchange for permission to destroy the Jews. In Hebrew, tash means “weaken”, and the hamantash may celebrate the weakening of Haman and the hope that God will weaken all of the enemies of the Jews. Another possible source of the name is a folk etymology: the Yiddish word מאָן־טאַשן (montashn) for a traditional delicacy, literally meaning “poppyseed pouch”, was transformed to hamantaschen, likely by association with Haman or inclusion of the Hebrew article ha- (ה). In Israel, hamantaschen are called oznei Haman (Hebrew: אוזני המן), Hebrew for “Haman’s ears” in reference to their defeated enemy’s ears. The reason for the three-sided shape is uncertain. There is an old legend that Haman wore a three-cornered hat. Alternatively, the Midrash says that when Haman recognized the merit of the Three Patriarchs, his strength immediately weakened. Naked Archaeologist documentarian Simcha Jacobovici has shown the resemblance of hamantaschen to dice from the ancient Babylonian Royal Game of Ur, thus suggesting that the pastries are meant to symbolize the pyramidal shape of the dice cast by Haman in determining the day of destruction for the Jews. A simpler explanation is that the hamantaschen shape derives from traditional Jewish baking techniques in Central Europe for folding dough so as to form a pouch around a filling, also common for making dumplings. It has also been suggested that the shape is a representation of female reproductive organs, and that the poppy-seed filling is a fertility symbol. Sweet hamantaschen fillings range from the traditional such as mohn/poppy seed, lekvar/prune, apricot jam, and also date which is especially popular in Israel. Prune hamantaschen was invented in 1731 by David Brandeis of Jung-Bunzlau, Bohemia. The daughter of a Christian bookbinder purchased from Brandeis povidl (plum jam) which she claimed had made her family ill; as her father coincidentally died a few days after eating it. The burgomaster of the city ordered the closure of Brandeis’ store and imprisoned him, his wife, and son for selling poisonous food to Christians. Investigations by municipal authorities and the court of appeal in Prague revealed that the bookbinder had died of consumption and the charges were dismissed. Brandeis wrote a scroll which he called Shir HaMa’alot l’David (“A Song of Ascents to David”), to be read on 10 Adar, accompanied by a festive meal. He was freed from prison four days before Purim after the charges against him were proven to be false, and in celebration of his release, Jews from his city celebrated with povidl or plum hamantaschen. The most popular hamantaschen filling today is probably poppyseed but apricot, prune, strawberry, raspberry, chocolate, peanut butter and jelly, and others are also common. The bottom and the top two corners of the dough are folded inward but do not fully enclose the filling, allowing it to remain visible. Sometimes hamantaschen may be frozen for a short period of time after shaping in order to prevent leakage of the filling. Then they are baked in an oven at medium heat for a short duration of time. Sometimes after baking hamantaschen may be dusted with confectioner’s sugar, dipped in melted chocolate, or topped with sprinkles. Now – my hamantaschen use a classic soft dough for the cookie portion, but I have made one CRITICAL change – the use of cannabis butter to make the cookies themselves intoxicating! Now, before you accuse me of leaping from my ivory tower of historical scholarship in exchange for a quick buzz – you are actually mistaken! The ancient Hebrews used weed extensively in their rituals – archaeological evidence conforms this, as noted in this fascinating BBC article here. So, I am actually RETURNING the cookie to its proper high place in the Jewish tradition. (#Badpun). If you are interested in more combinations of marijuana and foods, I recommend you check out my recipes for Algerian dawamesk, Indian thandai and Moroccan majoun that have been previously published – you can find links to them all here. So – I am cribbing the directions to make cannabis-infused butter from an excellent article in Bon Appetit, and the instructions to make it are both simple and clear. Of course, the fillings are unique to TFD – I am not overly fond of poppy seeds or prunes, so my hamantaschen use spiced cherry and apricot fruit fillings of my own design. These – like the cookies themselves – are specifically designed to cater to a sophisticated adult palate. IMHO, these are actually symphonic in their harmonious, layered and complex flavors! For both hamantaschen fillings, I have taken a few gustatory cues from the magnificent cuisine of Georgia – not the state, but the country! Fruits are beloved in Georgia, and are frequently combined with nuts and spices and I have done exactly that in my recipe – both cherries and apricots are beloved in Georgia. There is also a substantial Jewish population in the country, so I am once again standing on firm theological and geopolitical terra firma in my choices for this recipe. My hamantaschen dough is pretty much the standard, though I have added both vanilla bean paste and almond extract to it for additional complexity of flavor and to properly balance my unique fillings as well! For the cherry hamantaschen filling, I (of course) call for the finest cherries on Earth – the REAL maraschino cherries by Luxardo (not the hideous neon-red artificial horrors in the grocery store!) – you can buy them here. I also use raw acacia honey, which you can find here as well as an unusual spice called mahleb, which is itself the pit of a cherry and adds a hit of both cherry and almond flavor! You can buy top-quality mahleb here. My last suggested (and extremely optional) ingredient is a small bit of Georgian tkemali sauce, which is made from sour plums (my nod back to the original prune filling) and many different herbs and spices. I like the complex flavor it adds when used in small amounts, but you can easily leave it out if you so prefer – I love the stuff and this brand is perfect for the recipe. Trust me, it’s great on everything from sandwiches to meats – it will become a great new ingredient for you in many different dishes where you want a sweet-sour-spicy flavor! Now, for the apricot hamantaschen filling, I call for a mix of dried apricots (preferably Californian, as their color is superior to the Turkish variety) mixed with pineapple preserves, citrus zest and juice, rum and – wait for it – a tiny bit of Tabasco sauce for adding a little flavor complexity! Just a few drops is enough and it is an optional ingredient if you choose to not use it (though again, I love it in this recipe). Citizens, this Purim is going to hold special meaning for me this year and I hope my hamantaschen grace your tables during the holiday! If you’re not Jewish, never fear – these can and should be enjoyed by all, as long as you indulge safely and responsibly! Battle on – the Generalissimo ...
The Hirshon Southern Thai-Style Pork Belly Stew – หมูฮ้อง
February 3, 2021
My Citizens – as noted in my previous post from last week, the Dauphin of Depression has indeed been living up to His Title these last few days as the walls have slowly been closing in around me after nearly a year in lockdown (it will be one year on March 9). While the mighty Fenris – Prince of Basset Hounds! – has been doing all he can to break me out of this dark mood, and my inimitable wife has also tried her best, it’s been a rough week. So – when I am feeling less than optimistic, I turn immediately to my comfort foods – and spicy pork belly stew is definitely in that category! This particular stew (moo hong in Thai) hails from Southern Thailand – specifically around the resort city of Phuket, which was once the trading capital of the country and as such has a large immigrant population. These cultural influences are reflected in both the overall cuisine of the region as well as the local foods of the city. Phuket cuisine and local food (Baba Peranakan food) is thus the combination of many cultural food habits, whether they be Chinese, Malay or Thai – this was in fact the original fusion cuisine of Thailand! By way of example – some Phuket local food tastes sweet, such as in Chinese Hakka cuisine, but it can also be spicy, as evidenced in Thai cuisine and Malay cuisine. The food culture of Phuket, like its architecture, blends western colonial, Hokkien (Teochew) Chinese with Muslim and Thai motifs. The Hokkien who arrived from Singapore and Malaysia introduced moo hong to the culinary repertoire of the Phuket Thai-style cuisine (bpoon dteh ; ปุ้นเต่). Sweetening meat is a technique that has been used for thousands of years as a food preservation method. Therefore, what we have here is the rare dish that will be even tastier the next day – a good reason to cook it at your earliest convenience, Citizens! Moo hong is a stewed pork dish that was originated by a wandering Chinese people known as “Hokkien” or “Teochew”, who came from the neighboring countries of Malaysia and Singapore but are originally from South China. They usually made this dish to be enjoyed as a central part of ceremonies of celebration. Moo Hong contains pork belly, which is the main part of the dish and also uses dark soy sauce and sugar for a sweet taste and unique texture. It also includes garlic, pepper, and coriander roots for a piquant flavor. Regular soy sauce is included for a more salty taste. Finally, it is garnished with fresh Cilantro in the classic Thai fashion. Moo Hong is usually served with rice or boiled rice and served as the main meal. As noted in a fascinating article on silverkris.com which I am excerpting from here: Phuket’s street food stars – The Michelin Guide might be coming to Phuket but the true flavours of this island’s richly diverse cuisine are found in the lanes and alleys of the Old Town STORY BY CHAWADEE NUALKHAIR – Published on June 20, 2018 When Michelin announced in May that it would be expanding its 2019 Thailand guide to include the best food of Phuket and Phang-nga provinces, eyebrows were raised. Could the tourist haven’s restaurants really stand shoulder to shoulder with the country’s sophisticated capital? Still, local food aficionados were quick on the defence. “Phuket has flavours that you don’t find anywhere else in the country,” says Dwight Turner of popular Thai food blog bkkfatty.com. “It’s sort of like a stew of Indian, Malay and Thai cultures. The food that comes out of that is something special.” Phuket’s image as a melting pot of a wide range of cultures is the result of its history as a commercial trading port that drew visitors from far and wide. Phuket Town also played host to a tin mining boom from the 1850s to the mid-1900s, luring many Hokkien Chinese from Fujian province to its shores. The result is a mix of Hokkien Chinese, southern Thai, Thai-Muslim and Malay influences unlike anywhere else in Thailand. All of those social and cultural influences have filtered down into Phuket’s food, which offers a host of unique dishes. Here, the flavour profile can swing wildly from the sweet-and-salty tastes of the Hokkien Chinese to the fearsome spice of southern Thailand. For this reason, Phuket is worth a stop on any serious food lover’s radar, says Samantha Proyruntong of influential F&B website bangkokfoodies.com. “There are a number of gems and little guys kicking a** that deserve the same degree of attention as some Bangkok restaurants,” the Phuket native explains. Even better, these are not expensive eateries but streetside stalls run by the second or third generation of the families that founded them. These locals have absorbed their diverse ancestry to create dishes unique to the island – dishes like the flour, egg and coconut milk pancake known as ah pong or the sweet ang-gu, made with sticky rice flour, sugar and nuts. It’s not just that these are the best versions of these dishes but that they can’t be found anywhere else in Thailand. Whether Michelin awards this culinary originality is yet to be seen. In the meantime, these are the five Phuket-only eats you simply must try. Moo Hong (Pork Belly Stew) – Raya Chessadawan is the long-time owner of Raya and creator of the restaurant’s unique recipe for Moo Hong. This slow-cooked pork belly stew in a peppery gravy is a bewitching mix of meat, sweetness, umami and spice wreathed in a halo of fat. Traditionally served during Hokkien Chinese celebrations, this dish is typically accompanied by fluffy white rice. Perhaps the most famous incarnation of it is served at Raya, widely considered one of the island’s most famous local restaurants. Set in a barely renovated Sino-Portuguese shophouse in the Old Town, Raya has formed a big part of the Phuket food scene for nearly three decades, with its version of moo hong being one of the restaurant’s signaturesThe restaurant Raya sits in a charming Sino-Portuguese shophouse. The recipe – concocted by Raya Chessadawan, the restaurant’s now-septuagenarian owner – involves big chunks of pork belly braised for three hours, with near-continuous stirring, explains the bespectacled Suchitra Chesadaval, who helps manage the restaurant. “The dish is originally Hokkien Chinese but we have our own spin on it,” she said, taking a break from tallying checks during a busy lunch service. “We can’t tell you everything that goes into it, but there is garlic, peppercorns and Phuket soy sauce, which is more rounded in flavour than regular soy sauce.” Citizens, this is a truly delectable recipe indeed and only requires a few specialized ingredients. First, of course, is pork belly – you really want to make this with skin-on pork belly, preferably from an heirloom breed with a lot of fat such as Mangalitsa (best choice) or Berkshire. The skin turns sweet, spicy, sticky and soft in this recipe – it is a real highlight of the meal! You can buy superb Mangalitsa skin-on pork belly here – be sure to include in the notes when you order that you want skin-on. Rice bran oil of top-quality can be purchased here, and my favorite oyster sauce, by far, is this one – it also happens to be Thai! Thai sweet dark soy sauce of exceptional provenance and flavor may be found here, while dried cinnamon leaves can be purchased from here and fresh Markut lime leaves are easily found here. You want to use the milder Ceylon cinnamon quills for this recipe – you can buy this far superior to regular cinnamon variant from here. My preferred palm sugar from Thailand is this one. I have added in some of my own special spicing magic, including the use of canned green peppercorns as well as black and white. As I slowly convalesce, I hope the members of TFD Nation will send their best wishes for my speedy and complete recovery – and for the record, this dish is absolutely spectacular paired with another of my Thai comfort foods – the Siam version of wor wonton soup! Battle on – the Generalissimo ...
The Hirshon Chinese Wensi Tofu Thread Soup – 文思豆腐汤
January 28, 2021
Citizens – I’m sorry to report that it has been a very difficult week here at TFD’s secret lair. As you know, I dwell in my Bond-villain modern HQ on the shoulders of the fiery volcanic cone of Mt. Erebus in Antarctica – without going into too much wearisome detail, suffice to say that the Duke of Depressive has indeed been living up to this particular title. However, I am pleased to report that the evil Ifrit of depression has been forced back into its lead-stoppered copper bottle (emblazoned with the Seal of Solomon) and thrown back into the sea – at least for now. Not familiar with the story or terminology of my tale? It comes from Arabian mythology, and the story I’m quoting is from the famed 1001 Nights! Ifrit (Arabic: ʻIfrīt: عفريت, pl ʻAfārīt: عفاريت), is a powerful type of demon in Islamic mythology. The language in the 1001 Nights – especially in the 19th century translation of Sir Richard Burton – is flowery and resplendent, and the Ifrit in question quotes the classic Arabic aphorism of “Sooner a camel would fit through the eye of a needle than I would violate my oath unto thee!”. …which is a very roundabout way of introducing today’s recipe, which includes tofu cut so finely it was indeed supposed to be capable of passing through the eye of a needle thanks to the knife skills of the most talented Chefs in China! I speak of nothing less than the legendary Wensi Tofu Thread Soup of the Huaiyang cuisine cooking school in China! Soup is the most comforting, nurturing and delicious way I know to assuage terrible depression, and this soup – while seemingly subtle in flavor – is one of the most ultimate tests of a Chinese Chef! Huaiyang cuisine (淮揚菜) is one of the Four Great Traditions in Chinese cuisine. It is derived from the native cooking styles of the region surrounding the lower reaches of the Huai and Yangtze rivers and centered on the cities of Huai’an, Yangzhou and Zhenjiang in Jiangsu Province. Although it is one of several sub-regional styles within Jiangsu cuisine, Huaiyang cuisine is widely seen in Chinese culinary circles as the most popular and prestigious style of Jiangsu cuisine – to a point where it is considered to be one of the Four Great Traditions (四大菜系; Sì dà càixì) that dominate the culinary heritage of China, along with Cantonese cuisine, Shandong cuisine and Sichuan cuisine. Huaiyang cuisine is characterized by basing each dish on its main ingredient; the way that ingredient is cut is pivotal to its cooking and its final taste. – knife skills and soups are the hallmarks of this style of cooking. The cuisine is also known for employing Chinkiang vinegar, which is produced in the Jiangsu region. Huaiyang cuisine tends to have a slightly sweet side to it and is almost never spicy, in contrast to some cuisines of China (like Sichuan or Hunan). Pork, freshwater fish and other aquatic creatures serve as the meat base in most dishes, which are usually more meticulous and light. Huaiyang cuisine has been employed in official occasions by the Chinese government. Some examples include: In 1949, for the first state banquet of the People’s Republic of China. In 1999, for China’s 50th anniversary state banquet. In 2002, for visiting U.S. President George W. Bush, hosted by Chinese President Jiang Zemin. Cooking techniques vary with the differences of materials. Huaiyang cuisine seeks to retain the original flavor, the freshness, and temperance of food. As noted on gourmetpedia.net: Huaiyang cuisine is the name given to the culinary tradition that developed very early in China around the prefectures of Yangzhou, Nanking, Huai’an and Zhenjiang in Jiangsu province. In fact, it dates back to before the Christian era to the Spring and Fall period, the early part of the eastern Zhou dynasty between 771 and 481/453 BCE. It flourished under the Sui, Tang, Ming and Qing dynasties. Before the Ming and Qing era, Huai’an and Yangzhou were prosperous cities renowned for the sophistication of their cuisine. Huai cooking was already recognized as one of the four cuisines of China. After the end of the Ming and Qing dynasties, Huai and Yang cuisines amalgamated due to their many similarities. Thus it was that “Huaiyang” cuisine was born, a contraction of the names Huai’an and Yangzhou. This is said to be the cradle of imperial cuisine because many cooking methods were developed here, including that for Peking duck Located some 70 km from Nankin, Yangzhou was for a long time an important crossroads in the salt trade because it was located right on the Emperor’s canal. Therefore, in the Middle Ages, it became a prosperous and powerful commercial city. Marco Polo, it is said, even spent several years here as governor on behalf of the sovereigns of the Yuan dynasty. All the merchandise of southern China destined for the imperial court was amassed here; these goods were then loaded onto boats which, taking the Grand Canal, travelled all the way to Peking. Many mandarins and emperors came to stay or cross the region. It was also said that its inhabitants were among the richest in the empire. The Huaian-Yangzhou-Zhenjiang region is traditionally considered the “rice basket” of China. It is a fertile region: rice, wheat, pork, fish, seafood from the Yellow Sea and freshwater crab form the basis of this rich cuisine, at once mild and spicy, salty and sweet. The region also provides corn, barley, peanuts, and sweet potatoes, but the most common vegetable is white cabbage which tends to be called Chinese cabbage and which is used in soups, braised or fried. Huaiyang cuisine embodies harmony, neither too salty nor too sweet. It has delicacy as its essence and health as its goal. It can be summed up as follows: mild flavor, delicacy and elegance of presentation, harmony of colors and choice of key ingredient. Within this most esteemed style of cooking, wensi tofu soup is perhaps the most indicative, as it includes royal associations, a light but flavorful soup and an emphasis on amazing knife work. It is said that the most skilled Chefs could cut a single square block of tofu into more 5000 shreds?! Obviously, your knife skills do not need to be that intricate, but you’ll still want to be very sure of yourself when cutting the ingredients into the finest shreds you can – hair-like is ideal! Legend has it that during the Qianlong reign of the Qing Dynasty, there was a monk named Wensi in Tianning Temple on the right side of Meihualing in Yangzhou, who was good at preparing various tofu dishes. His recipe was said to include very finely-cut tofu that was mixed with mushroom, winter bamboo shoots, ham and chicken breast, depending on the season and availability and added to soup. Buddhist laymen who came to the Temple to burn incense and worship Buddha tried the soup and became enamored of it. The soup was then named after monk Wensi and became very famous indeed throughout the Yangzhou area. It is said that Emperor Qianlong once tasted this dish, and it subsequently became a famous dish in the Qing palace. From the beginning of the Republic of China to the 1930s, Wensi tofu was also famous in the Jiangnan area, but its preparation method is different from that of the Qing Dynasty. The chefs have improved the ingredients and preparation methods to make it more sophisticated and taste more delicious. Using the modern update, you will want to use only the best sesame oil and aged Chinkiang vinegar in this recipe as garnishes – the links will take you to my recommendations. Now Citizens – this soup may have a subtle taste but that also means it is EXTREMELY unforgiving of using shoddy ingredients. Trust me, you’ll taste the difference if using inferior stock or tofu in this recipe – they must be THE BEST! That means using classic Chinese banquet stock, which thankfully I have written up before and whose recipe you can find here. Your tofu also needs to be of superlative quality – you want to use the soft ‘silken tofu’ as opposed to the firmer ‘cotton’ tofu. This tofu is extremely fragile, and I’m telling you now – cutting it needs skill and patience! Fear not, worthy tyro – you’re up for the task! 🙂 The other ingredients should also be cut to the same diameter – as thin as you can get them! Use a very sharp paring knife for this task, it will make your life easier. Citizens – Wensi tofu is a subtle and evocative soup – one meant to be gently sipped and savored and it is truly a bowl of calm and comfort. Serving Wensi tofu to anyone demonstrates the high esteem you hold them in – and trust me, this is a great way to showcase both honor to your guests and your mad kitchen skills alike! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, and in the meantime, your Beloved Leader will take a few days of much-needed R&R to replenish his brilliant zeal and fervor to supernova levels! Battle on – the Generalissimo ...
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